How African Football Teams Use COVID-19 Tests To Unsettle Opposition

On the eve of an African Cup of Nations Qualification game against The Gambia in November, players of the Gabon national team were left to sleep on the floor of Banjul Airport.

A furious and disappointed captain and star player, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang took to the social media to reveal the situation at hand. The story quickly gained international attention afterwards and again, raised questions about football organisation in Africa.

The Gabonese players were not taken to their team hotel until the next morning, after a supposed “administrative” interference.

Tom Saintfiet, The Gambia’s Belgian coach, in his comment said the Gabonese were architects of their own situation. According to him, they had refused to get tested for COVID-19 at the airport and that was why the players were left out in the cold. The Gabonese F.A condemned The Gambian F.A for the action and said their players had been tested before getting on the plane.

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These stories were coming out of deep, agelong African pots of frustrate-the-opposition tactics. It’s not the first time visiting teams have had to face terrible conditions, inflicted on them by their hosts.

Other issues like bad sleeping foam, food, water and even training facilities are some of the tactics employed by African teams.

Compulsory COVID-19 tests have now joined the fray as one of the methods used in frustrating the opposition. While the tests are very important, the host team may decide to design the result, such that key opposition players won’t get to feature in crucial games.

An example reared its head in Plateau United’s game against Simba SC in Tanzania. Sunday Adetunji, a star attacker of the Nigerian side was initially tested positive for COVID-19.

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Worried about the veracity of the result, and aware of the games African teams, including the team itself, can play to secure victory, the Nigerians approached a private hospital in Tanzania to have another test for the player. Unsurprisingly, the player tested negative.

Adetunji, revealing the incident on Twitter, said he saw the game from the VIP box, despite being told he tested positive by the team. Plateau United drew the game in Tanzania but lost on aggregate, having lost at home in the first leg.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) must be at the centre of testing and passing players fit to play matches if hanky-panky games of this nature will be prevented.

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African teams, both clubsides and national teams, will look to use the tests to their advantage and in very crucial cases and must-win situations, the home teams will look to hold sway.

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